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How to make six-footers: 10 Rules From Dave Stockton

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By Dave Stockton
With Guy Yocom
Photo By Scott Mcdermott
October 2008

1. Take “try” out of the equation

When I faced a 15-foot putt to win the 1976 PGA Championship, the amount of time I took surprised a lot of people. Instead of grinding over it, I took less time than usual — 15 seconds in all. But I did not rush. I knew that if I got hung up dwelling on how much the putt meant, my chances of holing it would have dropped dramatically.

The moment you try to make a putt, you’ll miss it. Conscious effort doesn’t work. Try this experiment: Get a pen and paper and jot your signature. Now write your name a second time, trying to duplicate your first signature exactly. Chances are you’ll make a mess of it, because instead of doing it automatically, you’re now applying conscious effort. Your approach to the six-footer should be like signing your name: Do it briskly and subconsciously.

2. Think speed more than line

Speed and line are equally important, but the amateur tends to be preoccupied with the line. As you read the green, do it with the idea that you’ll roll the ball 16 inches past the hole — if you miss. After you’ve set up and taken dead aim, don’t give the line another thought. Avoid being too aggressive with the six-footer, because the edges of the hole might come into play and cause a nasty lip-out.

3. Stay away from dead straight

When Tiger Woods faced that 12-foot putt on the 72nd hole at Torrey Pines to send the U.S. Open into a playoff, he called in his caddie, Steve Williams, to help with the read. I’ll bet Tiger saw the putt as breaking to the left but was bothered by a hunch that it might be dead straight. If there’s one thing a good putter hates, it’s an absolutely straight putt. The reason is, if you start the putt straight, you have a margin for error of only half a cup on either side. Tiger needed Steve to confirm that the putt would break left, because the entire cup would be exposed if Tiger started the ball to the right. The putt indeed broke a couple inches to the left, and Tiger snuck it in on the right edge of the hole.

If the putt for all the marbles looks straight, look again. Study the area near the hole. Remember, the ball will be rolling so slowly when it gets within two feet that even the tiniest slope will cause it to break. Try to at least favor one side.
stockton

4. You’ve already made the putt

You might have heard that it’s helpful to form a positive image of the ball going in, but you should take it further than that. Imagine the ball tracking the entire six feet, as though you’re watching a video replay of the putt dropping. This image should be so convincing that, if the putt doesn’t fall, you should be shocked. That’s how I feel when I’m putting well — I’m absolutely stunned when the ball doesn’t go in.

Do everything you can to place the six-footer in the past tense. How many times have you missed a putt, raked it back for another try and instinctively knocked it in? Adopt this “second chance” mentality on your first putt.

5. Be a painter, not a carpenter

For the good putter, the most common miss under pressure is the push. When the heat is on, there’s a tendency to hit at the ball instead of stroking through it. Like driving a nail with a hammer, the putter stops abruptly at impact. It doesn’t release to a square position, and the clubface is aimed to the right. Putt as though you’re pulling a paintbrush, your hands leading and the clubhead trailing as you stroke through.

6. Your last thought: none at all

You should have no coherent thought as you draw the putter back. Avoid saying an actual word or phrase to yourself, even a seemingly positive one such as smooth. All it will do is block the overall sense of flow you must feel to make a good stroke. The only “thought” should be a vague feeling of relaxation, readiness and rhythm. All you’re doing is allowing your subconscious mind to take over so you can invite that wonderful sense of feel where you know the putt is going to go in. Remember, there is no actual language when you’re in that sharp mental state called The Zone.

7. Get your eyes over the ball

Putting mechanics are mostly a matter of preference, but there is one universal rule for putts from six feet and in: Eyes over the ball. For most players, that means standing closer to the ball. This simplifies things enormously. It’ll help you swing the putter straight back and through. It’ll make you less handsy and decrease your chances of fanning the face open and closed excessively. And you’ll see the line better. Come to think of it, it’s a good rule for all putts.

8. Focus on that first inch

In determining the line of the putt, the only area of true precision is the first inch the ball travels. If you’ve read the putt correctly, all you need to do is make the ball roll over a spot one inch in front of it. Be painstaking about that inch. At address, keep your eyes riveted on the spot. Your biggest priority is to keep your eyes still until the ball has traveled one inch past impact. This will keep your head from moving, which is a cardinal sin. Even if you feel anxious, focusing on that all-important spot will guarantee a smooth stroke.
stockton

9. Forget about bad greens

Under pressure, all of your senses are heightened. There is a tendency to see more obstacles than usual along the line — scuff marks, ball marks, footprints, disruptions in the grain and so on. Ignore them. If you strike the ball solidly and impart a true roll, the chances of anything knocking the putt off line are remote. If a spike mark is so significant that you’re sure it will affect the roll, play a shade less break and roll the ball with a bit more speed to avoid it.

10. Take advice with a grain of salt
Most amateur golf is played at four-ball match play. If you’re going to use your partner for reading greens, make sure he knows how you read putts and how firmly you hit them. The best partner I ever had was Al Geiberger. We did well in the old “CBS Golf Classic” series, because our putting styles were similar. When Al said, “It breaks half a cup,” I knew he said it knowing how hard I would stroke the putt. Whether it’s a member-guest or your weekend game, see how the two of you read putts. Make it a focal point of your partnership.

Read More http://www.golfdigest.com/magazine/2008-10/stocktonrules#ixzz1fdC8mhRx

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Winning Ways: Here’s what it takes to become a winner in Junior Girls golf

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Every competitive golfer strives to win, and I want to help them achieve their goals. Recently, I wrote a story highlighting the statistics behind winning in junior boys golf, and how they can do it more often. Now, we set out to examine the data on winning in junior girls golf, and provide ways they can improve. The data is based on an analysis of tournament results from all events during the 2017 year from the Junior Tour of Northern California. We then asked stats guru, Peter Sanders, Founder of ShotByShot.com, to provide the stats related to the winning scoring numbers that we found. Finally, we discuss ways that juniors can practice building skills and work towards becoming tournament winners.

The Winning Scores

In 2017 the Junior Tour of Northern California held 26 tournaments with 850+ members. According to our data collection based on information available on the website, the average girl’s tournament course measured 6145 yards. The average winning score for girls was 146 (36 holes), or 73 per round. Ten of the 22 tournaments where won with scores of 144 or better and the low 36 holes total was a whopping 133! In the data collection we also collected the average 10th place scores girls. The average 10th place score for girls was 159 or 79.5.

The Winning Stats

We provided the numbers to statistics expert Peter Sanders. Peter’s company has been providing Strokes Gained analysis for golfers for the last 29 years. Peter is the founder of ShotByShot.com, a website that provides golfers at all levels with Strokes Gained analysis, pinpoints specific strengths and weaknesses and highlights improvement priorities. Since the launch of ShotByShot.com in 2005, Peter has collected over 317,000 rounds. Accordingly, Peter has agreed to share the numbers, below, for a typical female player who averages 73. There are two important points to consider when reviewing these statistics:

  1. In order to have a complete picture of the puzzle that is golf, one must consider the ERRORS, or lack thereof, that play such an important role in scoring at every level. Even the 650+ PGA Tour stats ignore these important miscues. Shot By Shot has included them in their analysis from the beginning and they are highlighted in the infographics below.
  2. The data provided represents only tournament rounds. As such it will primarily represent the high school and college programs that use ShotbyShot.com

Infographics Created by Alexis Bennett

The Winning Preparation

Junior girls are encouraged to use these stats as a benchmark against their own performance to determine where they might need to improve against the “typical 73 player.” After identifying gaps in their game, they can then create practice plans to help improve. For example, a junior might notice they have more 3-putts than the model. To improve, they could work put more time into practice, as well as playing games on the golf course like draw-back and 2-putt.

  • Drawback is a game where after your first putt, you draw the second putt one putter length away from the hole. This often changes a shorter putt (> 2 feet) to a putt of between 3.5 – 5 feet. This putts significantly more pressure on your putting.
  • You may also play Two-Putt, a game where when you reach the green, you (or your playing competitor) tosses the ball away from the hole. You must 2-putt from that spot to move to the next hole (even if it takes a couple attempts!).

Others reading this article might find that they don’t hit enough greens. Improving this area will require more consistent strikes, which may require further technical development and block practice, as well as working on the golf course. To start, I would recommend that every junior implement the yardage rule. The yardage rule works like this; figure out the distance to the very back of the green. For example, this number may be 157. Then figure out what club ALWAYS flies 157, which might be 6-iron. Then choose 7-iron for the shot. This way your best shot will not fly the green, your average shot will likely be in the middle of the green and your less-than-perfect shot will hopefully end up on the front of the green.

During practice rounds, play competitive games with yourself to sharpen your ability to hit greens. For example, if you normally hit 7 greens per round, in practice your goal might be 9. You would track your results over a month and then see your progress.

Beyond building individual skills, like hitting greens or working on putting, junior golfers need times to play competitive rounds on their home golf courses. Ideally, these rounds are played against other people with similar skills and done under tournament like conditions with consequences (loser buys winner a coke or cleans their golf clubs). Playing hundreds of rounds at your home golf course under these conditions gives you a unique opportunity to sharpen your game, learn your tendencies and build skills such as endurance and mental toughness. Most importantly, it teaches you to win and shoot under par!

Please also keep in mind building these skills may take months (or even years). In my own personal experience, when I set out to improve my birdies per round, it took nearly 4 months and 75+ rounds and significant practice to begin to see a change. Depending on your schedule and access to resources like a golf course and instructor, some changes might take a year or more. Regardless, don’t ever worry; building a solid foundation in golf will always lead to rewards!

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PNF Drills: How To Turn Onto The Golf Ball

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In this video, I share a great drill to help you turn onto the ball. This will help you rotate through impact.

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A routine to copy: Patrick Reed’s 9-second putting routine at The Masters

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A solid pre-shot routine helps maintain consistency and ward off the negative effects of pressure, yet it is very much an overlooked skill by most amateur golfers. In that vein, I was struck this weekend by Patrick Reed’s solid putting routine. Further, I believe that this precise routine, and the discipline with which he stuck to it, were the difference in his one stroke victory at the Masters.

I had happened to pick Patrick Reed in a Master’s pool, so I was delighted to see him featured in the TV coverage. Putting is typically 40 percent of the game, but it takes on a far greater importance at Augusta. Further, the significance of each putt and the pressure escalates with each round to a painful (to watch, and perform) struggle down the stretch in the final round.

I was impressed by Patrick’s putting routine in the first round and curious to see if he would be able to stick with it if under the gun. It was not that unusual of a routine, but it was identical and fairly quick  — 9 seconds from the first step toward the ball until striking the putt. My perspective on the speed is based upon players that I have studied in their major wins. Here are just two examples:

  • Phil Mickelson 2004 Masters: 17 seconds
  • Lucas Glover 2009 U.S. Open: 16 seconds

Reed’s routine

First, Patrick Reed uses a line on the ball to set his alignment. He reads the putt, and when satisfied, sets the ball and line accordingly before he finally picks up his ball marker.

  • He stands about 6 to 8 feet behind the ball, square to the intended line, facing the hole.
  • Makes two practice swings, with his shoulders, still facing the hole.
  • Steps forward, addresses the ball by placing the putter blade behind the ball
  • Sets up to the ball, a last glance at the hole, looks back to the ball and pulls the trigger.

I start timing the routine with the first step forward from behind the ball. If I were to include the time facing the hole and two practice swings, Patrick’s time would approach the two examples above.

Bottom line, I believe that Patrick’s strict adherence to his pre-shot putting routine enabled him to hole all of the meaningful putts in the final round that proved to be the ultimate one-stroke margin.

My suggestion? Have a friend or partner time your pre-shot routine. Once you have a routine that you like, practice it with every practice shot and putt. It may just carry you through the pressure spots in your events.

For more on Pre-Shot routine see my 2017 article: How solid is your Pre-Shot routine?  For a Complete Strokes Gained analysis of your game log on to www.shotbyshot.com.

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